We already knew Marzamemi as a charming village on the south-eastern coast of Sicily, right where the two seas meet, the Ionian and the Mediterranean. But we are madly in love with seeing the photos of its spectacular and colorful little square on Instagram.
A movie square
It is no coincidence that this small fishing village is among the most photographed on the web thanks to the aforementioned square dedicated to Regina Margherita, which is overlooked by the palace of the Prince of Villadorata and the small tables and chairs of the many restaurants are arranged, but also and above all to its intense and silky light that already recalls the atmospheres of a very close Africa.
So we decided to take a longer tour (quite a bit longer) to reach Piazza Armerina from Syracuse, the second stop on our Sicilian tour, descending towards Marzamemi to enjoy a magnificent sunny autumn day and a fresh fish-based lunch at La Cialoma with the tables on the splendid Piazza Regina Margherita.
It seems incredible that until Ms. Lina Campisi opened her tavern, the first in Marzamemi, which already in the name honors the history of the village and that of her family of rais and tonnaroti, this charming square was used as a parking lot.
The cialoma is the working song with which the fishermen of the tuna fishery gave themselves the rhythm during the different phases of fishing. And it almost feels like sitting in the blue chairs like the sky waiting for the fragrant dishes of this unmistakable corner of Sicily to reach the table set with embroidered tablecloths, which with their whiteness stand out among the vases painted by Lina and young artists of the territory with decorations of puppets, fish, queens and mermaids.
Reading the history of this village of timeless beauty that derives its name from the Arabic “Marsà al hamen”, Fradis Bay, we realized that our deviation, if it extended our route to Piazza Armerina, was not too far from the events of our destination. In fact, the most important place of Marzamemi is the historic Tonnara, one of the most important in Sicily, dating back to the time of Spanish domination under the reign of Philip IV, and then sold to Baron Simone Calascibetta of Piazza Armerina.
Returning to the present, right in front of the La Cialoma restaurant stands the eighteenth-century palace that was the summer residence of the Prince of Villadorata, who enlarged the Tonnara and built the fishermen’s houses and the second church on the square, like the first dedicated to St. Francis of Paola. Unfortunately inside the building there is no longer any trace of the furniture, paintings and silverware that were looted during the Second World War, but the complex was renovated by Domenico Bonaccorsi di Reburdone, prince and former president of Confindustria in Catania, who spent his summers here as a child.
The rebirth of the small town is due to these two episodes, the restoration of the building with the annexed tonnara which is the historical testimony of the importance that tuna fishing has always had for the economy of the village, and the opening of the first tavern. The initiative of Campisi was then followed by many others, which brought to this charming square defined by Giuseppe Fava, the journalist killed by the mafia in 1984, “an abstract space emerged from a painting by Dalí”, Gabriele Salvatores, Tornatore, Taviani brothers and many other directors and celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker arrived here last summer for her holidays.
Before leaving the village, after filling your eyes and lungs with fresh and brackish air and clear light, you must visit Adelfio which offers the most delicious souvenirs of this strip of Sicily in tins: tuna roe, swordfish cream smoked, tuna and anchovy fillets, marinated anchovies, Pachino cherry tomatoes, typical almond, pistachio, citrus and prickly pear liqueurs, and many other delicacies that can also be purchased online through the site.